October the time to help a shelter animal

By London Collins Puc

October is “Adopt-A-Dog Month” which makes it the perfect time to bring attention to the plight of shelter animals.

“Adopt-A-Dog Month” was established by American Humane in 1981 and as a result the “Adopt, Don’t Shop” campaign was launched to encourage prospective dog owners to adopt from a shelter or rescue center instead of purchasing from pet stores, puppy mills or even shady websites. For some people, shelter dogs can seem like a coin-toss, and they worry that an animal who may have been abused, chained or mistreated could be dangerous and not what they’re looking for in a pet.

The stigma that hangs over animal shelters often drives people to puppy mills or backyard breeders as they search for their new pets. In some cases, these animals are bred essentially as livestock in unsatisfactory conditions. Many lack veterinary attention and socialization. As a result, puppies produced in these circumstances often have chronic illnesses.

Some even die shortly after being purchased.

There are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, according to the Humane Society of the United States, and fewer than 3,000 of which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When puppy mills and backyard breeders monopolize the market, they reduce homes available for animals from shelters and rescue centers.

While there has been concerns over the “Adopt, Don’t Shop” slogan by some who say it unfairly labels all pure breeds or reputable breeders as bad, Drew Dougherty, who’s been working at S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue on St. Augustine Beach for the past six years, encourages it.  “I try to use it as much as I can, especially around the holidays,” Dougherty said about what he sees as an effective campaign.

According to research done by the ASPCA, shelters have reported more adoptions, better community engagement and enthusiastic media attention around the holiday season. And the same organization also said worries about a high rate of return are unfounded since both research and the experience of participating shelters show no increased risk of giving up animals received as gifts.

There are approximately 3,500 animal shelters in the United States, 154 in the state of Florida, and five in St. Johns County. Within all of these shelters, 2.7 million dogs and cats are euthanized annually, the ASPCA has found.

According to UF Health, as a state, Florida’s shelter trends are synonymous with the rest of the South, with higher animal intake per capita and higher euthanasia rates than the North. Warm climate, high poverty rates, rural communities and disorderly veterinary care contribute to this pet overpopulation, overwhelming the capacity of many shelters.

Still, lengthy behavioral issues, illnesses and maintenance costs turn would-be adopters away, either to breeders or pet stores. People want a pet that’s “‘easily adoptable,” as Dougherty put it. It’s important to note that adoption shouldn’t be burdensome. A good match is aligning the challenges of the dog or cat with the family who is equipped and ready to handle these challenges. Genetics, health, temperament and conditioning are significant and necessary factors to consider during the adoption process. 

There are endless ways to help shelter animals in need, even if you’re unable to adopt. “We always need volunteers and donations,” Dougherty suggested.

S.A.F.E Pet Rescue offers foster and volunteer opportunities to those who’re willing to donate their time to help save a life. Each and every shelter animal deserves a happy one, but it takes a very special person to make that happen. A small exchange of kindness can change a shelter animal’s life for ‘fur-ever’!

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